With the spring testing approaching, juniors at Gig Harbor High School are opting out of the new Smarter Balanced Assessment.
Natalie Murphy and Brigid Majmudar, both 17, have opted out of taking the upcoming state test. They have also talked to many students at school that plan to opt out or already have done so.
About 40 juniors at Gig Harbor have opted out so far, estimated Jennifer Dempewolf, director of assessment and accountability for the district.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment lasts from May 18 to 29. Students will be sharing computers for the online test, which means they will take it in shifts.
Each student will have about two hours of testing for four days; a total of seven to eight hours. There is not a time limit on the test, but Dempewolf said that is the average completion time.
Murphy opted out once she found out the was not a graduation requirement for juniors. She cited a busy year that included advanced placement tests and the SATs.
“Part of the angst is many (juniors) have met the grad requirements,” Dempewolf said. “It is really about how busy they are.”
Opt outs are happening elsewhere in the state. The entire junior class at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle opted out of the test.
For the district, the Smarter Balanced Assessment is a way to measure how students are adjusting to new state standards. The schools are looking to the test to give a picture of the “true abilities” of students, Dempewolf said.
“We want our assessment results as accurate as possible,” she said.
While the test may not be a graduation requirement, it does have benefits.
The upcoming test will focus on college and career readiness, Dempewolf said, and high scoring students can benefit by having direct access to college level classes at any university, trade school or community college. That agreement is only applicable to in-state institutions.
For Murphy and Majmudar, they would rather be able to work on projects and have regular classes.
“For us, it’s a waste of our class time,” Murphy said.
Majmudar and Murphy have informed other opt out students that the testing time won’t be free time away from school. They will likely have an assignment and be spending the time in the library.
When sophomores took the exit exam, a version of the Smarter Balanced Assessment that is a graduation requirement, the testing schedule shifted classes at the school.
“It messed up the routine of every student in Gig Harbor High School,” Majmudar said.
The test has been on the district calendar for more than a year, according to Dempewolf, but Murphy said it was news to her and her classmates when they came back from winter break.
“Opting out didn’t ever come up until someone asked about it,” Majmudar said.
Opt outs are mainly coming from the junior class, but third- to eighth-graders will also be taking tests. Running Start students will take the assessment likely in an evening make-up class.